How can we reduce pharmaceutical loads in the environment?

Symposium Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

On October 27, the network for environmental professionals VVM organized the symposium ‘Green Pharmacy’ on pharmaceuticals in the environment. The goal of the symposium was to provide an overview of the current knowledge on the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and their residues in the environment and the possible risks to humans and the environment. The central question was: what can we do to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals that end up in the environment?

Multi-stakeholder approach

In my first project at KWR I work on pharmaceuticals and their residues in drinking water and drinking water sources. Therefore, this symposium was very useful to me. The speakers were very diverse and included for example someone from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, a hospital pharmacist, environmental scientists, and scientists that work on the development of ‘green’ pharmaceuticals (for example, substances that easily break down in the environment). The audience was at least as diverse and ranged from researchers from universities and research institutes to hospital staff, NGOs, water boards and the government. It was very interesting to meet people from so many different disciplines and backgrounds, but also very important, because a multi-stakeholder approach is required to address problems related to pharmaceuticals in the environment. For me, it was good to expand my view, to get information for the project and to get to know new people. KWR was well represented with Stefan Kools as chairman and Patrick Bauerlein who presented a poster on materials that can be used to remove pharmaceuticals from water.


In addition to presentations about problems related to pharmaceuticals in the environment, possible solutions were presented. For example, cattle treatment with bacteriophages instead of antibiotics may reduce the use and emission of antibiotics. Further, pharmaceuticals may be developed that easily break down in the environment. Also, a targeted delivery of pharmaceuticals in humans, only at the location where it is necessary in the body, may reduce the use and emission of pharmaceuticals. Finally, possible ways to reduce pharmaceutical waste were discussed. The further development and application of these and other approaches to reduce pharmaceuticals in the environment is very important, not only for the environment, but also for maintaining high quality drinking water.